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Bulletin Archive

This archived information is dated to the 2011-12 academic year only and may no longer be current.

For currently applicable policies and information, see the current Stanford Bulletin.


Emeriti: (Professors) Von R. Eshleman, Peter A. Sturrock, G. Leonard Tyler, Robert V. Wagoner

Committee in Charge: Vahé Petrosian (Director), Roger W. Romani, Sarah Church

Professors: Roger Blandford (Physics, SLAC), Blas Cabrera (Physics), Steven Kahn (Physics, SLAC), Peter Michelson (Physics, SLAC), Vahé Petrosian (Physics, Applied Physics), Roger W. Romani (Physics)

Associate Professors: Steve Allen (Physics, SLAC), Tom Abel (Physics, SLAC), Sarah Church (Physics)

Assistant Professors: Stefan Funk (Physics, SLAC), Chau-Lin Kuo (Physics, SLAC), Risa Wechsler (Physics, SLAC)

Professor (Research): Philip H. Scherrer (Physics)

Program Offices: Varian, Room 316

Mail Code: 94305-4060

Phone: (650) 723-1439

Web Site:

Astronomy courses are offered primarily through the Physics department, with subject code PHYSICS on the Stanford Bulletin's ExploreCourses web site.

Although Stanford University does not have a degree program in astronomy or astrophysics, teaching and research in various branches of these disciplines are ongoing activities in the departments of Applied Physics, Electrical Engineering, and Physics.

For the convenience of students interested in astronomy, astrophysics, and cosmology, a course program for undergraduate and graduate study is listed in the "Astronomy Cognate Courses" section of this bulletin. The list provides introductory courses for the student who wishes to be informed about the fields of astronomy without the need for prerequisites beyond high school algebra and physics. Courses in astronomy numbered below 100 are designed to serve this group of students. Astronomy courses numbered 100-199 serve the student interested in an initial scientific study of astronomy. The courses numbered 200 and above are for graduate students and advanced undergraduates, subject to prior approval by the course instructor.

Undergraduate Programs in Astronomy

The University does not offer a separate undergraduate major in Astronomy. Students who intend to pursue graduate study in astronomy or space science are encouraged to major in physics, following the advanced sequence if possible, or in electrical engineering if the student has a strongly developed interest in radioscience. The course descriptions for these basic studies are listed under the appropriate department sections of this bulletin. Students desiring guidance in developing an astronomy-oriented course of study should contact the chair of the Astronomy Program Committee. The following courses are suitable for undergraduates and are recommended to students considering advanced study in astronomy or astrophysics: PHYSICS 100, Introduction to Observational and Laboratory Astronomy; PHYSICS 160, Introduction to Stellar and Galactic Astrophysics; PHYSICS 161, Introduction to Extragalactic Astrophysics and Cosmology; GES 222, Planetary Systems: Dynamics and Origins. Students planning study in astronomy beyond the B.S. are urged to take PHYSICS 260 and 262, Introduction to Astrophysics and to Gravitation, and to consider an undergraduate thesis (PHYSICS 169) or honors thesis in an astrophysics related area. The above-mentioned courses are required for physics majors who choose the curriculum with a concentration in astrophysics (see the "Physics" section of this bulletin). The student observatory, located in the hills to the west of the campus and equipped with a 24-inch and other small reflecting telescopes, is used for instruction of the observation-oriented courses.


The minor program in Astronomy is described in the "Physics" section of this bulletin. The non-technical minor, intended for students whose major does not require the PHYSICS 40 series, requires 10 units of Physics courses (PHYSICS 21, 23, 25/26) and 9-10 units of Astronomy courses (3-4 units of PHYSICS 50 or 100, and 6 units of PHYSICS 15, 16, 17, 18N). The technical minor for other students consists of 14 units of PHYSICS 70, 100 (or greater), 160, 161, EE 106, and GES 122 in addition to the 40 or 60 series.

To be accepted to the minor program, students need to obtain an adviser selected from the faculty in the Astronomy Course Program. The minor declaration deadline is three quarters before graduation (that is, beginning Autumn Quarter if the student is graduating at the end of Spring Quarter). All courses for the minor must be taken at Stanford University, and a letter grade of 'C-' or better must be received for all units applied toward the minor.

Graduate Programs in Astronomy

Graduate programs in astronomy and astrophysics and related topics are carried out primarily in the Department of Physics but also the departments of Applied Physics and Electrical Engineering. Students should consult the course listings, degree requirements, and research programs of these departments for more detailed information. Graduate research opportunities are available in many areas of theoretical and observational astronomy, including research projects using the Hobby Eberly telescope, a 10-meter-class telescope located at McDonald Observatory in Texas. Other observational and experimental opportunities are in ground-based observations of CMB and space-based gamma-ray observations with Fermi and in the future, X-ray observations with NuSTAR. For further information on graduate research opportunities, see the "Center for Space Science and Astrophysics" section of this bulletin and the Kavli Institute of Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology at

Students planning to conduct research in astronomy and astrophysics are required to take PHYSICS 360, Physics of Astrophysics, and at least one of the following: PHYSICS 361, Stellar and Galactic Astrophysics; 362, Extragalactic Astrophysics and Cosmology; or 363, Solar and Solar-Terrestrial Physics. Students lacking a background in astrophysics, gravitation, and plasma physics should take PHYSICS 260 and 262, Introduction to Astrophysics and to Gravitation, and PHYSICS 312, Basic Plasma Physics. Students with special interests in gravitation should take PHYSICS 364, Advanced Gravitation.

Students interested in research programs in space physics involving spacecraft studies of the planets, their satellites, and their near-space environments should see the "Center for Space Science and Astrophysics" section of this bulletin.

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